I’d been planning for this day for 4 years. The morning of the race was perfect. 5 mile per hour winds, cool and warming quickly with crisp winter sunlight peeking through the clouds. It was earlier than usual for me to be headed downtown, but not my first Austin Marathon to contend with.
I’d been caught off guard in the past. Sundays should be easy, no traffic, no stress, a breath of fresh air. Not Marathon Sundays. Easy, familiar corridors transformed into barriers of cones and the police officers to guard them. You might get into the city, but there were no guarantees you could get out.
This morning, I was prepared, though. I was a Finish Line Sponsor headed to 6th and Congress, the heart of the Marathon, 2 blocks south of the Finish Line.
At 12th and San Jacinto, my trusty 4Runner chased the climbing sun to the top floor of the Capitol parking garage. I found one of 3 remaining spots and smiled – this was my day. Water, check. Plenty of inventory, check.
Needing to make the 8 block, downhill trek in one trip, I loaded my portable cart to the brim. I used one hand to stabilize the cart while I pushed and pulled precariously with the other.
Runners were trickling into Austin, ebbing around each from all directions. It was as if Trinity, San Jacinto and Colorado had all been named for this one Marathon event as marathon-goers flowed effortlessly into downtown like the mighty Texas rivers they represented.
I was caught up in the tide as well. At 11th and San Jacinto, I steered my cart west toward Congress and quickly realized that no runners were following. I looked up and paused - I had unknowingly entered the final bend of the race and was headed into the finish line corridor. Staff raised their flags and shouted at me, ‘Stop, turn around, this area is secure’.
But it was too late. I belonged here now. I’d be finishing my race today.
‘I’m a vendor’, I shouted. ‘I’m one of you guys,’ as if that meant anything.
They paused, relented and then waved me on.
100 feet to go. I picked up my pace. The security teams noticed and cheered as I desperately clung to the contents of my cart. Their excitement meant more than they knew. My elation was real. This WAS my finish line moment.
Canna Bees Snap. Squeeze. Relieve.™
4 years ago, I was tasked with creating an on-the-go CBD Honey product, first-of-its-kind, serious about quality but perfectly cute enough for the Canna Bees name.
At the time, the only on-the-go CBD Honey competition was CBD Honey Sticks - plastic straws filled with what appeared to be real honey + CBD. Besides the obvious lack of imagination in straw packaging, there were a couple major flaws with CBD Honey Sticks:
1. The Honey Stick packaging was originally intended for just honey, something cute enough to entice kids and their unwitting parents at the neighborhood farmer's market. Honey's indefinite shelf-life stability didn't necessitate a higher quality of packaging so the straws worked just fine. But add CBD and you have a different requirement for protection - direct exposure to UV light as well as Oxygen. We concluded that a clear plastic CBD honey stick product could not guarantee the efficacy our customers deserved.
2. CBD and Honey naturally separate from each other. Honey is a super-aqueous solution made up of water and sugar; CBD is an oil. Because oil and water don't mix, the only way to keep them permanently together is to blend in strong emulsifiers at very high speeds. The stronger the emulsifying agent, the poorer the resulting taste of honey. CBD Honey Single Serving manufacturers, like ourselves, use weak emulsifiers in order to preserve as much of the natural flavor of the honey as possible. With CBD Honey Sticks, though, weaker emulsifiers like Organic Sunflower Lecithin will allow the CBD to eventually separate to one end of the straw.
Have you ever tried a CBD Honey stick? Did you rip, tear or cut off one end of the straw? If you did, there is a 50% likelihood that you just cut off and discarded most of the CBD.
We concluded that straws were not the solution and so, our search began.
One of the newest single-serving technologies available at the time was called Easy Snap. Instead of ripping or tearing a sache, the packaging allowed you to snap the packaging in half in order to break the air-tight seal. With two fingers you can snap and squeeze a pre-filled liquid sample into your mouth or favorite drink and voila, an easy on-the-go additive to your coffee or tea.
The technology had just advanced to include a thin lining in the material that could also prevent UV light from penetrating the packaging. Plus, the packaging guaranteed that you could squeeze out 99% of the contents, so, If separation did occur between the CBD and the honey, you would still get all the CBD out when you squeezed to packs.
Not only was the packaging cuter and more convenient than a straw, we now had access to a packaging that could deliver efficacy, every time.
Simple enough right?
A Marathon of Manufacturing
With the snap packs, we couldn’t’ just fill one jar at a time or even 100; The minimum batch was 50,000 units and there were NO test runs.
We had to nail everything on the first run with quite a few variables to contend with:
1. Not only was the inner lining of the snap pack film quite sophisticated, it was strangely more economical to print the front and back films in two separate manufacturing plants, which happened to be 10,000 miles apart. The real challenge in printing the packs was color matching the two sides of the packaging at two different printers in two different countries.
2. Next we had to blend 55 gallons of Honey and the perfect amount of CBD and Organic Sunflower Lecithin together in order to preserve incredible flavor and a precise efficacy across 50,000 packs. This was the first time, to anyone's knowledge, that the equipment had attempted to combine CBD and Honey.
3. There was also no way to test that the efficacy of the first finished packs was correct before running all 50,000 packs. So, we rolled the dice, then waited 2 agonizing weeks for the 3rd party lab reports to come back.
When I first opened up the reports, I closed my eyes. I knew once I opened them, the results were real and I couldn't hide them. After a few minutes of wishful breathing, I opened them.
A perfect pack was 20mg. First report – 22.08 mg/pack. Second report – 19.8 mg. Third report – 18.9 mg. So on and so on. Every report after another confirming we had 10% or less deviation across the entire production with the majority of them coming in under 5% deviation.
It had worked. The packs tasted delicious. They had the correct amount of CBD. And most importantly, they worked great.
That was October of 2019.
3 months later, the Pandemic hit and like the rest of the world, my dreams were put on hold.
A Texas-Sized Surprise
Day 1 of the Expo. It’s 2 years later and the world is waking up. Events are back and I’m debuting at the Austin Marathon.
I hadn’t been sampling honey for more than an hour when an older, athletic gentleman with a Dumbledore-like beard approached my booth. He conceded he was over 60 years old, running in his 20th marathon and still loving each and every race.
‘What’s your secret?’, I ask.
He quieted down and moved closer to me.
‘I’ve smoked a joint before every single marathon…’
‘You run the whole thing, high?’ I respond in disbelief.
‘It’s the only way to do it’, his smile grows wider.
‘You should try Texas T,’ I say, putting my sales hat on.
‘Let's do it!’, he responds without deliberation.
On race day, I was so caught up with handing out Snap Packs, that I nearly forgot about the man and his experimentation with Texas T. It was almost noon when he finally sauntered up to my booth, two big thumbs up and an even bigger smile. I couldn’t stop laughing. I could only imagine future customers asking me, ‘How should I use this product?’, ‘What do I use it for?’
‘Well,’ I would say. ‘I know this guy who ran 26 miles on Texas T.’